Setting goals - defining exactly what it is that you want to accomplish - is a tremendously powerful tool for getting the job done.
You can get away with a tacit goal-setting excercise in your subconscious when it's just you doing something, but in my experience I've found it's absolutely critical when you need many people to cooperate in the work to make an explicit statement of where you want to end up.
Bill Gates spoke to the UN General Assembly about progress on the Millennium Development Goals a few days ago. I heard some of it on the radio, and just watched his entire talk (only a few minutes long, I recommend it).
Here's a few key excerpts:
It is crucial to evaluate our performance in both areas, but I also think it’s important at this point to evaluate the goals themselves as a force for change. So here’s my evaluation: I love the Millennium Development Goals. I think they the best idea for focusing the world on fighting global poverty that I’ve ever seen. With all the mountains of measures and studies and reports in the world—these Millennium Development Goals have broken through and grabbed broad attention.
Thanks to these goals, not only UN agencies but the world at large knows the key measures of poverty, hunger, health, and education. Some of the numbers are good and some are not. But the fact that the world is focusing on the numbers is excellent.
It means people see where things are going well, and understand how we can spread those successes. They see where we’re falling short, and they see the need to apply more effort and do things differently.
There is more power in these goals than we ever imagined. Now that we’ve seen it, we want to work with you to intensify it – and push the day when all people, no matter where they’re born, can live a life filled with health and opportunity.
Yes! Define goals! THEN work to achieve them! Like Bill Gates, I've had the experience of being surprised by just how well this works, and how the benefits of goal-setting are far broader than might be expected.